[uh-mah-toh; It. ah-mah-taw]
Amato, Giovanni Antonio d', 1475-1555, Neapolitan painter, called Il Vecchio [the elder]. He imitated the style of Pietro Perugino. Paintings by him are in many churches in Naples, among them the Holy Family in a chapel of San Domenico Maggiore.

Alfonse Marcello D'Amato (born August 1, 1937) is a former New York politician. A Republican, he served as United States Senator from New York from 1981 to 1999.

Early life and career

D'Amato was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. He is a graduate of Chaminade High School, Syracuse University, and Syracuse University College of Law. He is a brother of the Alpha Chi Rho and Omega Gamma Delta fraternity. His political career started with the Nassau County Republican Party, and he held the appointive position of Public Administrator of Nassau County, where he was responsible for managing the assets of county residents who died without wills. He was first appointed and then elected Receiver of Taxes of Hempstead, New York. He left this office to become a town supervisor in Hempstead and in 1977 he was elected presiding supervisor.


D'Amato married his first wife Penelope, with whom he has four children, in 1960. Al and Penelope D'Amato separated in 1982 after 22 years of marriage. Al and Penelope finally divorced after a 13 year separation, their divorce becoming final in 1995. He has dated several well-known personalities, including entertainment television reporter Claudia Cohen. On July 18, 2004 he married Katuria Elizabeth Smith. They have one son, Alfonse Marcello D'Amato, born on February 5, 2008.

United States Senate

As a rather obscure candidate, he defeated incumbent Sen. Jacob Javits in the 1980 Republican primary election, after Javits' 1979 diagnosis of generally fatal amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Javits nevertheless pursued the seat on the Liberal Party ticket, splitting the left-wing vote in ordinarily liberal New York with Democratic Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman and leading to D'Amato's 45% plurality victory.

D'Amato drew the nickname Senator Pothole for his delivery of "constituent services," helping citizens with their individual cases. Some New Yorkers meant the nickname as a pejorative.

Senator D'Amato also holds the record for the second and seventh longest filibusters ever recorded in the United States Senate. He is remembered for his unique and rather comical filibusters. In 1986, a filibuster he conducted against a military bill lasted 23 hours, 30 minutes and he was known for reading the District of Columbia phonebook during a filibuster. On another occasion he once filibustered a bill that would have caused the loss of 750 jobs in upstate New York by singing "South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)"

Senator D'Amato is also remembered for presenting a poster of a "Taxasaurus Rex," which he then stabbed with an oversized pencil.

He was a member of the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST), which was set up in September 1989 to review and report on aviation security policy in light of the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988.

While he was in office, he was chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and was a member of the Senate Finance Committee. As a member of the former, he became a leading critic of the Clinton administration regarding the Whitewater scandal, and during 1995 and 1996 chaired the hearings-heavy Senate Special Whitewater Committee. As a member of the latter, he championed the cause of Holocaust survivors trying to recover relatives' funds from accounts in Swiss banks.

D'Amato was known for being fairly conservative, a reflection of then conservative-leaning Nassau County, yet very popular among New York's liberal voters. He strongly supported the conservative positions of his party on "law and order" issues such as capital punishment and harsh penalties for drug offenses. On some issues he agreed with the opposition: in 1993 D'Amato was one of only three Republicans to vote in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the U.S. military. In 1996 he was among the minority of Republicans to vote to extend federal protections against discrimination in hiring to homosexuals. In fact, in the 1998 election, D'Amato was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign over socially liberal Democratic Congressman Chuck Schumer. On labor issues too he frequently sided with Democrats. His 1998 loss was attributed to a lack of support among moderate voters in New York City, site of opponent Charles Schumer's US Congressional district. Another factor contributing to his loss was his labeling of Rep. Schumer as a "putz-head," which means "fool" or "penis-head" in Yiddish. This was ironic on several levels: first, D'Amato had previously enjoyed considerable Jewish support because of his strong pro-Israel stance, as well as his efforts to help Holocaust survivors. Second, D'Amato won in 1992 for the same reason he lost in 1998; his 1992 opponent, then-attorney general Robert Abrams, called D'Amato a "fascist," which people (including D'Amato himself) interpreted as an ethnic slur because D'Amato is Italian. After his defeat, he became a correspondent for George Magazine until it ceased publication in 2001, and was also a commentator on Fox News. He is now managing director of Computer Associates and also serves as Chairman of the Board of the Poker Players Alliance.

D'Amato's decline may also have mirrored that of Nassau County's Republicans. In 2001, after years of alleged scandal and financial mismanagement, Republicans lost control of the county legislature for the first time in 40 years, and Democrat Thomas Suozzi was elected County Executive.


D'Amato is also known for his public controversies and brash style. After a series of investigations in 1991, the Senate Ethics Committee reprimanded D'Amato for allowing his brother Armand, a lobbyist, to use office stationery to help solicit million-dollar Navy contracts for Unisys. Armand D'Amato was convicted on 7 of the 24 counts of mail fraud in May 1993. A federal appeals court reversed Armand D'Amato's mail fraud conviction, finding insufficient evidence against him. Al D'Amato attributes William Weld, at the time a federal prosecutor, for an overzealous prosecution against Armand.

The senator's brother was also partners with Lucchese crime family captain Paul Vario and mob associate Phillip Basile. When Basile was arrested for getting mob associate Henry Hill a no-show job at one of his discos, Senator D'Amato testified on Basile's behalf.

During the Don Imus radio program on April 4, 1995, he used a mock Japanese accent to impersonate Lance Ito, a Japanese American judge overseeing the ongoing O.J. Simpson trial (Ito, born and raised in the United States, has a characteristically American accent). He later apologized on the Senate floor for his comments.

In 1994, he insulted Betsy McCaughey Ross, the Republican candidate for New York Lieutenant Governor; he joked that in order to get an endorsement for her running mate, George Pataki, she should have sex with New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had endorsed Mario Cuomo.

In October 1998, D'Amato was criticized for insulting Congressman Jerry Nadler. According to USAToday, D'Amato "referred to the heavyset Nadler as 'Congressman Waddler.' He also did a physical imitation of Nadler (D-NY) waddling like a duck." D'Amato subsequently apologized, saying, "It was a poor attempt at humor, and I was wrong, and I apologized to him."


In recent years, D'Amato has been the subject of much controversy over local zoning laws in Lido Beach, New York (governed by the Town of Hempstead). His wife, who sat on the Town's zoning board, was forced to recuse herself after accusations arose over 'unfair' and 'unethical' treatment as D'Amato made what would have been illegal additions to his Lido Beach home.

2008 presidential race

On June 12, 2007 the three-term Senator endorsed Senate colleague Fred Thompson for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. In explaining his endorsement of Thompson, former Senator D'Amato called Thompson "a real conservative," not a candidate who adopted conservative positions in preparation for an election. D'Amato added, "Fred Thompson is the kind of candidate our party can unify behind and support wholeheartedly. On January 22, 2008 after poor showings from Fred Thompson, D'Amato threw his support to John McCain for the 2008 Presidential Election, saying "If you want to win in November, John McCain is the man."

Poker Players Alliance (PPA)

D'Amato is chairman of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a nonprofit organization set up to help protect and fight for the rights of poker players in the United States. Part of the PPA's mission is to protect the right of poker players to play online.

Electoral history

  • 1998 Race for U.S. Senate
  • 1992 Race for U.S. Senate
  • 1986 Race for U.S. Senate
  • 1980 Race for U.S. Senate
  • 1980 Republican Senatorial Primary

Acting career

D'Amato had a brief cameo as himself in the 1997 movie The Devil's Advocate. D'Amato also made a brief cameo appearance as himself in an episode of Spin City.


External links

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